Differences between COPE’s strong Housing Authority and Vision’s weak “housing agency”


Late Wednesday night Vancouver City Council received a staff report on what will become a City-run “one-stop shop” for developers. There are crucial differences between COPE’s Housing Authority plan and Vision’s “Housing Agency.”

In April of this year, COPE released a 98-page report entitled, “Ending the Housing Crisis: International Best Practices for Creating a Vancouver Housing Authority,” which analyzed case studies from around the world and proposed key principles for a uniquely Vancouver approach to a municipal housing authority.

COPE’s Housing Authority fundamentally differs from the Vision housing agency in these ways:

1. Developer powers: COPE’s Housing Authority will build housing. Vision’s housing agency is not empowered to build housing.

2. Public profits: Any profits from COPE’s Housing Authority will go to the city, while Vision’s housing agency relies on private developers and allows them to keep profits.

3. Public ownership: COPE’s Housing Authority will own the housing it builds. Under Vision’s housing agency the city will not own the housing, rather the buildings will be privately owned.

4. Democratic governance: COPE’s Housing Authority will be democratically elected and represent tenants and community members, drawing on Toronto’s experience. Vision’s housing agency will be governed by a board of real estate industry experts.

5. Social housing: COPE’s Housing Authority will build social housing to end homelessness. Vision’s Housing Agency plan excludes social housing – it is all market housing.

6. Progressive funding sources: Part of COPE’s Housing Authority budget for operation and building will come from a dedicated tax on private developers and a luxury housing tax for houses valued at more than $1.5 million. Vision’s Housing Agency budget will come from general revenue and provides only for an executive board and expert consultants.

7. No corporate tax breaks: COPE’s Housing Authority will not be governed by real estate industry interests nor will it give tax breaks to real estate corporations, unlike Vision’s Housing Agency.

8. Lobbying: COPE’s Housing Authority will aggressively lobby and pressure other levels of government to support social housing. In Stockholm and New York City, tenants of the Housing Authority buildings work together to run the building and lobby for their interested. Vision’s housing agency does not plan to mobilize tenants or lobby government.

COPE members adopt a policy for a Housing Authority with teeth

At yesterday’s COPE Annual General Meeting, the membership approved the party’s 2014 policy platform that highlights the need for a municipal Housing Authority to build real affordable and social housing.

To end homelessness, COPE’s Housing Authority program will build 800 units of city-owned social housing annually. The city’s 2005 Homeless Action Plan called for 800 units of social housing each year for ten years, but Vision and the NPA abandoned this goal.

“Thousands of Vancouver residents are living in deplorable housing conditions, especially poor people in single-room hotels, seniors, single mothers, indigenous people, and many migrants,” said Charlene Sayo, a new voice on COPE’s Executive. “COPE’s Housing Authority will build real social and affordable housing that remains publicly-owned.” COPE’s Housing Authority plan outlines annual income to fund city-owned social housing:

Luxury Housing Tax – $35 million
Levies and contributions from private developers – $50 million
Housing Authority profits – $50 million
Property Endowment Fund revenues – $10 million
Lobbying / other sources – $25 million
“People who have benefited from Vancouver’s high housing prices can afford to pay a little more to help end homelessness, and build a Vancouver everyone can afford,” said Sayo. COPE’s Luxury Housing Tax will not affect homes valued below $1.5 million. A property valued at $2 million be taxed only an extra 42 dollars per month.

This week, City Council will be voting on Vision’s plan for a Housing Agency that builds no social housing and puts private real estate corporations in charge. Under Vision’s plan, the city will not build housing, but as Councilor Meggs told Metro News it will be a “one-stop shop” for private real estate corporations to get approval for projects to reduce so-called red tape. This sounds like the NPA’s free-market solution of removing red tape for developers to override community processes.

“COPE’s Housing Authority will be democratically governed by residents, not developers. It will be guided by the needs of tenants and elected representatives, and will build relationships with communities and First Nations,” said Sayo. “Vision’s Housing Agency will be run by real estate industry interests, who caused the problem in the first place.”

Municipalities must take a stand against Enbridge and crude oil

Municipalities must take a stand against Enbridge and crude oil

The Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) expresses solidarity with First Nations and all concerned residents of BC who are taking a stand against the Enbridge Pipeline.

A crude oil spill will be an ecological disaster and will threaten the existence of many coastal communities.

It’s inspiring to see many First Nations already moving forward with legal action. COPE believes that BC municipalities have to take a strong stand. COPE is committed to working with other municipalities to build a BC-wide plan of non-cooperation with Enbridge, to be backed up by a joint legal defence fund.

In the 1980s, COPE led the fight to make Vancouver a “Nuclear-free zone.” Today COPE believes in a future with no crude oil tanker traffic on the BC coast. COPE will set its sights on making the waters around Vancouver, and along the coast, a “Tanker-free zone” when it comes to crude oil. COPE is committed to working with other cities, First Nations, labour unions, and levels of government to make this a reality.

In 2010 the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) called on the Federal government to reject the Enbridge pipeline and ban crude oil tanker traffic in BC, but now it’s time for cities to bring their opposition to the next level.